Service Denied: Countering Targeted DDoS Attacks

Most people do not think about it as frequently as I do (since I work in information security), but we all know that the websites we visit – or even operate – are constantly under threat of attack.  These attacks often result in taking these sites offline – rendering it unavailable to visitors.

This can have devastating effects for businesses that depend on their site as a means of interfacing with the public and/or generating revenue (ecommerce sites, for example), and no one is immune from such cyber threats.

You may be asking, “Why would someone want to take down sites?”  It seems crazy.  Nevertheless, there are numerous reasons why attackers take down sites:  political activism, extortion, and competition are a few examples.  The simple fact of the matter is there are many bad people with nefarious intentions hiding behind a computer.  It is not likely that you can change them, but you can learn about how they take down sites – and be better prepared when they try to attack yours.

Targeted Attacks Occur Anytime from Anywhere

One way of bringing a site offline is by overloading it with traffic from a variety of computers, known as a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack.  Attackers often do this by utilizing a network of previously compromised systems, known as a botnet. Once the attackers can control these computers, they focus as many of the compromised systems as needed on a particular site, committing a targeted attack.  For example, if a small business website only has enough bandwidth to handle 50 visitors per second, a DDoS attacker would submit at least 50 fake access requests per second, rendering the site inaccessible to legitimate users.

What is even more daunting is that anyone, anywhere in the world can assemble a targeted attack.  One of the more infamous DDoS attacks was committed in 2000 by a 15-year-old Canadian hacker called “Mafiaboy.”  Showing the world how easy it is to launch such attacks, he knocked out Yahoo, CNN, eBay, Dell, and Amazon.

Attackers like Mafiaboy don’t discriminate; from financial to government to social media sites, DDoS attacks pose a major hurdle between you and the information you want to access or provide.

Use the Right Tools

Illegitimate traffic is a legitimate threat.  Overpowering a website through illegitimate traffic is an ever-increasing global challenge.  The good news is there are equally sophisticated means of detecting and preventing DDoS attacks – so don’t panic just yet.  There are a number of network intrusion prevention platforms available.  At Contegix, we recommend and use Radware’s DefensePro real-time Attack Mitigation System (AMS) for DDoS web-based protection.  It lets legitimate traffic through to your website, and ensures sites remain protected from emerging network attacks.  It also protects you against both application- and network-level attacks, delivering a holistic approach to threats and enhancing the overall security performance across your organization.

Applying managed intrusion detection and prevention solutions means:

  • Enhancing the capabilities of your IT security team
  • Helping maintain compliance with network security requirements
  • Identifying and immediately countering security threats
  • Minimizing the force of targeted attacks

Protect Your Site While Saving Money.

An added benefit to automated DDoS protection is cost effectiveness.  It may seem that a detection and response service to raise costs.  However, when you think about it, it is cheaper to automate security systems wherever and whenever possible.  Human intervention (i.e., security teams) is still necessary, but DDoS protection services are making overall security practices more dynamic.  Large-scale cyber-attacks can be devastating in terms of lost revenue.  Downtime often results in a lack of customer trust, and requires your staff to log extra man-hours undoing the damage.  In other words, thwarting DDoS attacks keeps your site operating, your customers happy, and your profits high.

DDoS attacks can be large in scale, or small in scale.  They can knock your webpage offline for one hour or one week.  The ever-changing landscape of these cyber threats have become very complex.  The good news is that technologies to combat and mitigate these threats advance every day.  These threat defense technologies – alongside managed and compliant security services – can keep your sites safe and running smoothly.  With the right tools, you can have it all: enhanced security, enhanced performance, and an enhanced customer experience.